Shocking but true: Another person’s stool samples in enteric-coated capsules can save your life in the case of a certain devastating condition. Fecal transplant treatment is here to stay.
It all begins with a condition called Pseudomembranous Colitis —an infection of the bowel caused by clostridium difficile bacteria. The condition develops after antibiotic treatment eradicates all bacteria in the gut, including the good bacteria called probiotics. Normally probiotics prevent colonisation by bad toxic bacteria. However, when these good bacteria are eradicated by antibiotics, there is plenty of room for bad bacteria to step in and cause disease. The consequence: C-difficile causes the deaths of 300 people each day in North America — despite modern medical efforts.
In the late 1950s, surgeons from Colorado introduced feces (from a healthy donor) dissolved in water to patients with this devastating condition via a rectum pump as enemas. At the time, they had no idea that an infection was the cause of Pseudomembranous Colitis. The result: the complete and quick recovery of all patients treated. Of course, as is often the case, the medical establishment was quick to refute and ignore such findings by calling the treatment “unusual in nature” and “invasive” as compared to antibiotics. Just imagine the loss of life that resulted from this ignorance.
Needless to say, some ingenious researchers picked up the idea and published an article in 2013 in the New England Medical Journal. Their research resulted in a 94% cure rate when treating with a micro-biota stool transplant by enema, compared to a 31% cure rate with standard antibiotic treatment. In fact, the fecal treatment was so effective that the researchers had to discontinue the study because it was deemed unethical for the placebo group to be receiving a placebo and not the actual treatment.
The treatment can be administered in many forms: stool dissolved in saline water as an enema, via a tube through the mouth and esophagus into the small intestine, or via enteric coated stool capsules taken orally that dissolve once they pass the stomach. All forms have been shown to be equally effective.
The treatment has also been shown to be highly effective in treating ulcerative colitis, a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBS) and even for Parkinson’s disease, although this result is so shocking that it surely requires further investigation.
For now, let’s marvel at this radical therapy that has the power to save over a 100,000 people per year in North America alone.